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Published on November 14, 2015

Go ahead, read that next chapter before bedGo ahead, read that next chapter before bed

Do you go to bed early enough to get seven or eight hours sleep, but wake up repeatedly during the night?

If so, you may be doing more harm to your mood the next day than if you only got a few hours of sleep.

That’s the conclusion of a new study by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and appeared recently in the journal Sleep. It found that people whose sleep was frequently interrupted for three consecutive nights reported significantly worse moods, including depression, than those who had less sleep due to later bedtimes.

Patrick Finan, PhD, one of the study’s authors, said the findings indicate sleep interruption is more detrimental to mood than lack of sleep.

Edward Caldwell, MD, a breathing and sleep specialist at Cape Cod Healthcare, agrees, adding that the study may shed additional light on the association between depression and insomnia.

Dr. Caldwell noted that the Johns Hopkins study reinforces growing evidence that quality of sleep is as important as duration. When sleep is disrupted, it interferes with your sleep stages and the ability to get sufficient slow-wave or deep sleep, which is critical for body repair and maintenance.

The treatment of mood disorders including depression and insomnia should be approached as a ‘yin and yang’ proposition, he said. They represent two halves of the whole.

“Mood issues and lack of sleep need to be addressed simultaneously,” he explained.

About one in 10 people in the United States suffers from insomnia. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults between 18 and 64 should get 7-9 hours of sleep nightly, while those 65 and older need 7-8 hours.

The Johns Hopkins’ researchers studied 62 healthy men and women three consecutive nights in a clinical research suite. Each was randomized to one of three sleep conditions.

One group had uninterrupted sleep each night, one group had delayed bedtimes and the third group was deliberately awakened eight times during sleep each night.

The sleep stages of each subject were monitored using polysomnography, which records brain waves, blood oxygen levels, breathing, heart rate and eye and leg movements during sleep.

At the end of each night, participants were asked to report how strongly they felt positive or negative emotions, such as anger or cheerfulness, which the researchers assessed to determine their mood.

While there were no differences in mood between groups after the first night, participants in the interrupted sleep group experienced a 31 percent reduction in positive mood after the second night. Those in the delayed sleep group experienced only a 12 percent reduction

Dr. Caldwell noted that there are numerous reasons people awake from sleep. They include:

  • You need to go the bathroom, something more frequent as you age. This is called nocturna and it is advisable to consult a physician for possible treatments.
  • You are too hot because the room temperature is too high or you have too many blankets. Ideal room temperature for sleeping is 60 to 65 degrees.
  • You are feeling stress. Click here for tips to reduce stress in your life.
  • You may have had too much alcohol before bedtime. While a drink may put you to sleep faster, it also can interfere with healthy rapid eye movement, REM.
  • You are using your cell phone, tablet or computer in bed. Make your last hour awake screenless.

For tips on how you might get a good night’s sleep, click here.